Eames Desk Unit 10

Made by Herman Miller 1951 – 1955, 1996 – Present

44″ long, 28” deep, 29” high

Long before “modularity” and “high tech” entered the design lexicon, Charles and Ray Eames were using industrial production techniques to extend the boundaries of design and create a modern aesthetic. The Eames Desk Units (EDU) complement the Eames Storage Units (ESU) and provide ample storage, work, and display space. At home or in the office, this design looks as striking now as it did when first introduced in 1950.

The EDU offers more than arresting good looks; it is designed and built to meet your work surface, storage, and display needs in a very practical way. The new smaller desk, which has open wire shelving for storage, is ideal for today’s compact devices and spaces.

Desks and storage units are offered in two color schemes—neutral or bright. The neutral scheme features birch veneer with white and black accents to create a sleek, high-tech look. The bright scheme uses red, blue, black, and white hardboard panels and surfaces reminiscent of a Mondrian painting.

The design’s cross-supports, uprights, and perforated panels have an industrial feel, and the dimpled plywood on the front of the cabinet reinforces the furniture’s mid-century modern appearance.

Herman Miller still produces the EDU today for countries throughout the world, while Vitra serves Europe and the Middle East.

 

History

The Eames Desk is part of the system of Eames Storage Units (ESU), and exemplifies Charles and Ray’s effort to design and produce economical household furniture using industrial production techniques. This system of lightweight, modular storage cabinets and desks is constructed of plywood, lacquered Masonite, and chrome-plated steel framing.

The ESU has many of the same convenient features as the Eames-Saarinen Organic Design Case Goods created in 1941 for the Museum of Modern Art’s Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition. The standardized parts of the ESU are entirely interchangeable; they can be stacked and can serve as room dividers; and they can be easily adapted to a variety of office uses or residential storage needs in living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms. Charles and Ray made no attempts to disguise or soften the off-the-shelf look of the ESU components. Their industrial antecedents are quite apparent.

Herman Miller began marketing the Eames Storage Units and Desks in 1950, and the original production continued until 1955. In the final three years of that production run, they also produced a version with steel rod legs.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that Herman Miller and Vitra restarted production of the Eames Storage Units and Eames Desk Units. They are still manufactured by those two companies today.

In the April 1950 issue of Arts and Architecture magazine, Charles Eames introduced the new case goods with the following essay, entitled “A New Series of Storage Units.”

The new Eames storage units make use of an ingenious and inventive system of construction as simple and as openly engineered as a bridge. The elements come together with a fine unforced logic and the methods and mechanics and reasons are completely apparent in the whole.

The units have been designed in such a way as to permit exceptional economies in fabrication, and it was with a practiced foreknowledge of possible complications that the designer was able to avoid the unnecessary and to use the simplest approach to the industrial techniques available. The combination of standard elements can be made to serve an infinite number of uses—in the living room, the dining room, the bedroom, or as a room divider.

Color is used with great flexibility—calm and clean—in feeling with accents of brilliant blue, red, yellow, against a background of neutral colors and natural birch and walnut.

Eames, Charles. “A New Series of Storage Units Designed by Charles Eames,” Arts and Architecture 67, No. 50 (April 1950) 34-35.